Michael Rosen’s We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, which is currently at The Liverpool Playhouse, is the quintessential quest for pre-schoolers. Brought to stage, and life, by director Sally Cookson and musical director Benji Bower, it is showing at Liverpool’s Playhouse until Thursday 24th March.
Our family embark upon a bear hunt and must overcome many an obstacle along the way, be it swishy swashy grass or swirling whirling snowstorms until they locate a bear in a narrow gloomy cave. But what happens when they find one?
This production features an all-male ensemble – the Girl is now another Boy, the Baby is a puppet and the Dog is a squeezebox-playing man. But that’s okay. In the book the characters are not imbued with any personality. In fact, we know more about the bear – one shiny wet nose, two big furry ears, two big goggly eyes – than any of the protagonists who engage in the pursuit. All of which allows us to simply slip into the role of any family member and inhabit the story ourselves.
Likewise, the set welcomes us in. The director, Sally Cookson, writes that she wanted to create the landscape of the story from familiar playroom objects. Hence, there is a cardboard box forest and the river is realised through cunning use of towels and plastic laundry baskets, whilst a paint fight serves to illustrate the squelchy squerchy mud.
A family show that does not encourage audience participation is, quite frankly, derelict of duty. So sing along to the catchy songs – if you’ve read the book even once, you’ll know the words – and expect to get a bit wet with some hilarious water-pistol action. And dust off your panto lingo to tell the cast exactly where that bear is.
The beauty of Michael Rosen’s book is its rhythmic repetition, meaning most three year olds can learn it off by heart. What is essentially a chorus throughout affirms that “we’re going on a bear, we’re going to catch a big one, what a beautiful day, we’re not scared.” Of course, this is all bravado, a chant to persuade ourselves we’re not really terrified of coming face to face with a huge hairy predator. But of course we are, a little bit.
Do bears go poop in the woods? Well this one does, and it’s a useful reminder along the way of where the story is going. Growls emanating from backstage, pawprints and, indeed, poo all keep us focused on the hunt before the bear enters, stage right.
Children love to dabble with danger and darkness and the production gives us this thrill as the chase reverses and, having found a bear, the family flee shrieking from it as it now hunts them. My three year old professed not to be scared but I did notice a more sensitive soul being bundled out in tears. Exit, pursued by a bear.
We’re Going On A Bear Hunt,
March 22 – March
**** Lovely Stuff.